As with many design trends, the modern country concept is one of contrasts: old and new; rustic and industrial; neutral and vibrant. One thing is consistent though: a celebration of, rather than a distancing from, the natural world.
History has a way of going in cycles. This is as visible in the industries governed by fashion as it is anywhere. It is easy to see the seeds of the current country style at the tail end of the last century, when the excesses of the 1980s facilitated a move towards a more heightened ecological awareness in the proceeding decade, a mentality that was equally present in the design industries of the time, too.
Fast forward 30 years and we are at a very similar junction and the boundary between the urban and the rural has shrunk in the meanwhile, making the modern country design style a true hybrid. So, whether you wanted to incorporate some of the thought process into your country home or city flat, there are a few fundamentals that will get you on the right footing.
The use of raw, natural materials is preferred to synthetic, processed ones here. Wood is central to any modern country interior, so exposed wooden beams and original floorboards are often incorporated and accentuated, as well as wood panelling on the walls and bare staircases.
This idea of stripping things back to make a focal point of the construction’s raw materials doesn’t stop at wood either. Exposed brickwork and bare plaster can both be effective points of accentuation, and it is common to find uncovered concrete as a floor and breeze blocks as a base for worktops. Aluminium doors can continue the industrial theme. If you don’t have any original materials to strip back to, there are plenty of ways of reclaiming flooring or panelling or similar items from other sites.
With regards to furniture: the hand-made, weathered look is prized over the clean lines of other styles, such as the Scandinavian school. Look out for intricate carving and other details, things that will further draw attention to them as points of focus. Having unique items is often preferred to uniformity, so feel free to hang on to that old dining table and don’t worry about the new seats not matching.
Traditionally, country-inspired interiors would make use of palettes that were reminiscent of the dark woods and earth tones of their environs. For a contemporary look, designers have opted for lighter and more neutral tones, choosing a passive backdrop upon which to add touches of counterpoint, through furnishings and accessories of the modern age.
For little splashes of colour, soft pastel shades can be brought in via the choice of curtains and rugs, or the raw materials theme can be extended by using metallic highlights in fittings and other embellishments.
It is only those with whom we are closest that we are comfortable showing our imperfections. In the modern country aesthetic, the same applies to our homes. Bumps, scrapes, scratches and other marks are all signs of a particular vintage quality that is highly sought after. The previously mentioned celebration of exposed raw materials is an extension of this thinking, too.
Layering different textures is an easy way to add depth and a sense of intimacy to the space, as well as introducing visual interest. Again, natural materials are the way to go, so throws and rugs made of things like wool or straw are common additions.
All too often, people think that the simplicity of the modern country style dictates that there should be little-to-no decorative flare on display, which isn’t the case at all. If anything, a more neutral backdrop will help to bring any ornamentation to the fore.
The concept of using and playing with tradition is still present, so a popular trick is to use vintage prints and patterns, but in a novel scale. Floral shapes and botanicals are still key components of the modern country look, as well as striped and checked patterns for a more minimalist approach. They needn’t be painted on walls, either: many have opted to keep their walls monochrome and hang the pattern as a large picture or mural instead.
All things in a home should have a purpose, a tenet of the movement that is immovable. The notion that there should be no extraneous clutter in the home is one born from necessity, harking back to a time when country living was hard and the things you had around you were there to make it easier. There wasn’t any room for anything superficial, or aesthetically pleasing but practically useless. Just like the human occupants, a thing had to earn its keep.
An item that is multi-functional is even better. Furniture that you can sit on which also has plenty of storage is almost obligatory, as are pieces large enough to store linens and crockery. There is plenty of room for innovation in the pursuit of finding the perfect piece of practical furniture, so get the imagination going.
A Touch of Nature
Bringing little hints and vignettes of the outdoor world into your home will go a long way to achieving the modern country feel. Plant life is an obvious choice and it is surprising how effective having some in your home can be, whether it’s a potted plant or just some herbs growing in the kitchen.
You need very little experience to keep most house plants alive and thriving, but if you are doubtful of your skills or in the time needed then a piece of art or soft furnishing with a decorative motif reminiscent of your surroundings will do the same thing.
Country Style: A Template for Any Home
You don’t have to live in the countryside to understand the appeal of bringing nature closer to our lives; it could even be argued that the attraction is felt most keenly by those at a greater remove. As we have seen, a little goes a long way, and with a small set of rules to follow anyone can bring a touch of country class to their home, wherever they are.